Tag Archives: Divemaster

Blacktip Island Divemasters To Stage Lizzie Borden Snorkeling Tribute

Lizzie Borden

Several of the hand axes that will be used in Saturday afternoon’s performance of Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story, an original two-act play by local divemaster Alison Diesel. (photo courtesy of Magnolia677)

Dive staff from all Blacktip Island’s resorts will don snorkel gear Saturday afternoon to perform Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story in the Eagle Ray Divers pool to raise money for a local charity.

“A hundred years later people are still debating what happened,” videographer Leigh Shore said. “There was a damn-near fight among dive staff at happy hour over who the actual ax murderer had been. Then a few days later, Alison Diesel’d written a two-act play about it. We all got together to stage the thing since the Community Players wouldn’t touch it.

“We’re performing it in the pool so as many people as possible could see it first hand,” Shore said. “The snorkeling gear will really engage the diving audience. We were going to do it on scuba, but this seemed less cliché. And it’s surprisingly easy to understand lines spoken through snorkels.”

The production posed several challenges for the actors.

“It’s totally a period piece, but there’s no 1890s gear on the island,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Each actor ended up making their own costume. It’s amazing what you can do with neoprene, and the fin de siècle touches on the masks and snorkels is awesome.

“It also took some practice swinging an ax convincingly in a crowed swimming pool without actually hurting anyone,” Diesel said. “The handle gets slippery. The first rehearsal I lost my grip, the ax went flying and broke four pool tiles. Rich Skerritt’s pretty hacked off about that.”

The performance will feature:

Alison Diesel as Lizzie Borden

Gage Hoase as Andrew Borden

Leigh Shore as Abigail Borden

Marina DeLow as John Morse

Booger Bottoms as Maggie Sullivan

Finn Kiick as Dr. Owen Seabury

Some in the community questioned the play’s appropriateness.

“The subject’s in bad taste, and the staging is inappropriate,” resident Frank Maples said. “Bad taste and inappropriate are de rigueur on Blacktip, but still, there’s a certain gravitas one would hope for. We’ll see if the actors convey that in the live performance.

“The big worry, though, is it may give locals crazy ideas,” Maples said. “That’s the last thing Blacktip needs. Though Alison assures me it is for a good cause.”

Diesel said the money raised will go to charity.

“All proceeds go to the Divemaster Retirement Fund, minus what we keep for expenses,” she said. “We’re also asking for donations to help pay for the broken pool tiles.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Undersea ‘Christmas Carol’ Brightens Blacktip Island Holiday Season

underwater xmas carol

The cast of the underwater ‘Christmas Carol’ run through the final scene at Bob Cratchit’s house during the dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Mahdian)

Dive staff from Blacktip Island scuba resorts have joined forces to stage an underwater version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol in the shallows off the Diddley’s Landing public pier. The play will be performed twice daily through Christmas Eve.

“We wanted a fresh take on an old classic,” artistic director Cori Anders said. “The dialogue’s 100% scuba signals, with some new ones we got from the local Mime Divers Association.

“Each actor gives surprising nuance to the hand signs – is that ‘eel’ sign fast, slow, over-the-top, understated? Small inflections carry a ton of weight,” Anders said. “After the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come leaves, Scrooge’s desperate out of air sign had the crew in tears.”

The cast includes:

  • Elena Havens as Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Gage Hoase as Bob Cratchit
  • Marina DeLow as the Ghost of Christmas Past
  • Alison Diesel as the Ghost of Christmas Present
  • Wendy Beaufort as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
  • Hugh Calloway as Tiny Tim
  • Lee Helm as the Christmas Turkey
  • Finn Kiick as Old Fezziwig

“We didn’t really need the Old Fezziwig character, but it’s just fun to say and lightened the rehearsals,” Anders said.

The underwater venue allows for creative staging.

“Scrooge clomps across the sand in lead boots, while neutrally-buoyant ghosts float over and around him,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “And when the inevitable sting ray cruises past, it gives an ethereal quality to the performance.

“The audience is on scuba and can view the play from any angle, so long as they don’t interfere with the actors,” Havens said. “And we have morning and afternoon shows to give all divers a chance to see it.”

Some of the staging had to be curtailed for safety’s sake.

“We tried a night dive version, but the audience got mixed in with the actors and it turned into a real Charlie Foxtrot,” said cast member Gage Hoase. “Things blew up when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come scared the bejesus out of a couple from Cincinnati. They bolted to the surface. But, man, did they tip well at the end of the week.”

The play is not without its critics.

“You have to be 10 years old to scuba dive, which means the younger kiddos can’t see it,” local parent Ginger Bass said. “And the sign language is a mostly gibberish. I mean, I know the story and I had a hard time following along. I think they make it up as they go along, and there were some rude gestures mixed in that are definitely not scuba signals.”

Performances are at 10:30 and 2:45 daily. Proceeds of the play go to The Blacktip Island Widows and Orphans Fund, minus expenses and incidentals.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Rude Dive Staffs Prompt Blacktip Island Cotillion Class


Alison Diesel and Gage Hoase practice their quadrille Thursday evening at the Blacktip Island Heritage House. Dancing is one of many social skills being taught to island dive staff in a new cotillion class aimed at boosting tourism on the island. (photo courtesy of Silar)

Faced with a growing number of complaints about rude dive staff, Blacktip Island community leaders and etiquette activists have joined forces to create a cotillion program aimed at the Caribbean island’s divemasters.

“We got loads of guest complaints from every resort on the island,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “It ranged from not saying ‘hello,’ to sarcastic remarks, to snatching food from guests’ hands. Dive ops fire the bad apples, but the replacements’re just as bad.

“When word hit travel review sites, we knew we had to do something drastic,” Cobia said. “It was killing our tourism product.”

The solution was to recruit the island’s gentry.

“Jack could have been describing wild animals,” long-time resident Helen Maples said. “He asked if I might teach the rascals manners, deportment, dancing and other social graces.

“I was delighted! I’ve wanted to institute a regimen like this for years,” Maples said. “The next evening I lined up a dozen hostile scuba hippies, and whacked them with a ruler if they didn’t stand up straight.”

Cobia is cautiously optimistic about the course.

“Honestly, it’s a pilot project,” he said. “But if it works, we may expand it to include all resort workers, then airfield staff, then anyone else in the tourism industry.

“If it doesn’t work, it’s still fun to watch,” Cobia said. “Helen tells them to imagine their granny’s standing next to them. Then, if they so much as look sideways, TWHACK! Bruce Lee’d be jealous of how fast that ruler moves.”

Predictably, many divemasters were critical of the class.

“That bloody ruler hurts,” said Eagle Ray Divers’ Lee Helm. “It’s not right, requiring us to go there and be physically abused. Mrs. Maples is a sadist, she is.”

Maples was unapologetic about her methods.

“It’s a time-honored tradition. Or should be,” she said. “The ruler reminds them to wear shoes, to speak in complete, non-obscene sentences and to pass the salt and pepper together when a tablemate requests, “Would you please pass the salt?”

Some dive staff, though, say they enjoy cotillion.

“Lee’s a whiner,” said Eagle Ray Divers’ Alison Diesel. “It’s so cool when Gage, umm, I mean Mister Hoase, comes up and says, ‘Miss Diesel, may I have this dance?’ and I say, ‘Certainly, Mister Hoase.’”

Attendee Finn Kiick, of Club Scuba Doo, sees other positives.

“It’s goofy, sure, but you learn proper, formal dancing,” he said. “Women dig that crap. You’ll see DMs out cutting a rug at the Sand Spit pretty much any night of the week now, practicing.

“It’s value-added on the boats, too,” Kiick added. “Run out of stories to tell during a surface interval? Now you can entertain the guests with a waltz. Or a quadrille.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Management, Labor Unite For Divemaster Rehab Center


The Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures divemaster rehabilitation center will be built on landfill wetland on the Caribbean island’s east coast. The center will provide counseling and job training for injured dive staff. (Photo courtesy of Finn Kiick)

In a rare show of unity between business leaders and labor activists, Blacktip Island resort owners have partnered with Divemasters’ Local #138 to build a rehabilitation and job-training center for incapacitated divemasters.

Groundbreaking for the Blacktip Association for Re-envisioned Futures will begin Saturday morning with island mayor Jack Cobia and other dignitaries ceremoniously blasting out the first chunk of ironshore.

“Guests don’t realize the career-ending injuries dive staff can get,” union president Finn Kiick said. “Decompression sickness isn’t even in the top five. The real monsters are blown out backs, shredded elbows and anger-control meltdowns on the boat.

“It’s even gnarlier because a ton of DMs are in their 30s when they have to retire,” Kiick said. “Some don’t know how to do anything else. It’s a bumpy transition into the adult world. This center’ll help with that.”

BARF backers outlined its rigorous rehabilitation schedule.

“They’ll get daily physical therapy and occupational training,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner and center financier Rich Skerritt. “The first few weeks they’ll learn how to wear collared shirts. Then they’ll work up to going a full day in shoes.

“Psych counseling’s big, too,” Skerritt said. “Especially for the ones who teed-off on guests. We address head-on the main question lots of these scuba hippies have: ‘if I’m not a divemaster, what am I?’”

Not all locals are sympathetic.

“It means more employment for the island, certainly, but is the expense really necessary?” said longtime resident Frank Maples. “These young people don’t need training and counseling, they simply need to grow up and get a proper job. A divemaster’s much like a municipal bond – when it turns 30 it ought to mature and earn some money.”

Others, though, were enthusiastic about the center’s plan for long-term divemaster care.

“One wing will be housing for dive staff who are . . . well . . . a bit longer in the tooth than is ideal,” counselor Peachy Bottoms said. “Some have been divemasters so long, they’ll never be able to integrate back into in the real world. And there’s no way we can, in conscience, turn them loose on an unsuspecting population.

“Most divemasters take it quite hard when they realize it’s time to hang it up,” Bottoms said. “For some it’s when joints hurt too much. Or when the hangovers get unbearable. Or when the younger dive guests start treating them like a pervy uncle.”

BARF officials touted the center’s long-term residency program.

“It’s rare for a divemaster to save much money. Any money, really,” Skerritt said. “We can’t have a bunch of bums wandering the island. If they’re here, we can keep an eye on them. And we’ll keep them here with housing, meals and a generous bar tab at subsidized rates. The Divemasters’ Union’s picking up the tab.

“We’ll have the usual retiree activities,” Skerritt said. “Shuffleboard, movie nights, drinking contests, the whole shebang.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Author Releases New Humor Novel

Blacktip Island cover

Tim W. Jackson’s humor novel, Blacktip Island, was released Saturday.

Local award-winning author Tim W. Jackson Saturday released his second novel, Blacktip Island, via all major book distributors and his personal website.

Blacktip Island follows a bumbling embezzler who runs off to the Caribbean, a step ahead of the Feds and desperate to start life over as an anonymous divemaster in a tropical paradise. On Blacktip Island, though, he quickly discovers ‘tropics’ doesn’t mean ‘paradise,’ and rookie boat hands stick out like a reef at low tide.

“It’s a rollicking comedy for anyone who’s ever dreamed of trading the rat race for an exotic tropical locale,” Jackson said. “If Margaritaville and Northern Exposure had a love child, they’d call it Blacktip Island.

Early reviewers praised the novel.

The San Francisco Book Review said, “Five Stars. Blacktip Island’s storyline gets readers hooked, and the characters take this book to another level.” The Portland Book Review called Blacktip Island, “fun and funny, its characters vivid. Take your time and dive into this adventurous story.” IndieReader said, “Jackson has a strong voice that makes for an entertaining read from beginning to end.”

The novel’s first chapter is available as a free download below The Blacktip Times’ “World News” section and on the author’s website.

Blacktip Island is available for purchase at:





A portion of all proceeds from Blacktip Island go to the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Preservation Fund.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Author Unveils Cover For Forthcoming Novel

Blacktip Island cover

Local author Tim W. Jackson gave readers an early glimpse of his forthcoming novel Saturday when he unveiled the book’s cover on his website.

Titled, appropriately, Blacktip Island, the novel follows an inadvertent embezzler who high-tails it to the Caribbean, a step ahead of the Feds and desperate to start life over as an anonymous divemaster in paradise. On Blacktip Island, though, he quickly discovers ‘tropics’ doesn’t mean ‘paradise,’ and rookie boat hands stick out like a reef at low tide.

“It’s a whackadoodle adventure,” Jackson said. “If Don’t Stop the Carnival and Northern Exposure had a love child, they’d call it Blacktip Island.”

Early reviewers praised the novel.

The San Francisco Book Review says, “Blacktip Island will make you laugh and keep you guessing. The story gets readers hooked, and the characters add laughter, suspense, romance and everything in between to take this book to another level.”

Blacktip Island will be published in early September.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Divers Discover Fountain of Youth on Blacktip Island Reef


A juvenile nurse shark swims through the shallows at Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Thursday, near the underwater vents believed to have restored youth to scuba diving visitors. (Photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)

Scuba divers on Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Wednesday discovered what local authorities say may be the famed Fountain of Youth.

“There’s always been a halocline up in the shallows where fresh water vents up through the hardpan,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “No idea why divers wandered up in there. The vis is manky and the coral’s just polyps.

“All the juvenile fish on that site should’ve been a tip off,” Diesel said. “Then when all those kids wearing adult-sized scuba gear climbed back on the boat, well, we knew something was up.”

Experts say the spring leaching out underwater may have helped keep it secret.

“Legend says the Fountain of Youth is in the Caribbean,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Explorers searched for it for centuries, but no one expected it to be underwater.

“We’re not sure what the source is, or why no one has noticed it before,” Altschul said. “It may be booby pond water, since no one’s ever tried to drink that stuff. Or the rejuvenating properties could be from booby pond muck catalyzing with seawater. We don’t even know if the effects are permanent.”

The discovery caused problems at Blacktip Island resorts.

“We had a boat full of guests at the bar demanding post-dive drinks,” Eagle Ray Cove resort manager Mickey Smarr said. “They talked like adults and all, but they were little kids. We had to turn them away. We’re not about to serve minors.”

Resort dive staffs have not been impacted by the water.

“Near as we can tell, divemasters are immune to the stuff,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess. It’d be hard to get any less mature than our dive staff.

“We’re selling kids masks and t-shirts and sun screen like crazy, too,” Latner said. “So there is a silver lining.”

Island resort owners, meanwhile, are promoting the dive site for its obvious benefits.

“We’re charging double to dive there, and folks are lining up to pay for it,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “We’re working up a Fountain of Youth Diver specialty course to teach divers how to get close enough to take a few years off without zapping themselves back to pre-puberty.

“That first group all has to get recertified as Junior Divers,” Skerritt said. “Damn shame. We can’t let some of them dive past 40 feet. There was a bit of marital strife by the resort pool, too, when a little tyke came back from diving and tried to get frisky with his non-diving wife.”


Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Back Breaker Integrated Weight Tourney Comes to Blacktip Island

back breaker

One of the Back Breaker competitor’s gear, rigged with a 30-year-old brass regulator to add extra weight to his rig. (photo courtesy of Catalina Luxfer)

Blacktip Island this week will host the five-day Back Breaker 2016 Integrated Weight Throwdown, with anonymous competitors vying to maim divemasters across the small Caribbean island. The winner will be determined by the number of divemasters injured and severity of those injuries.

“It’s like a traveling Fight Club for out of shape, passive-aggressive scuba divers,” Back Breaker organizer Catalina Luxfer said. “Divemasters are always telling us to dive with less weight. It’s so judgemental.

“This is payback,” Luxfer said. “We dive with however much weight we want, and we won’t be shamed into wearing less. They hurt our feelings; we hurt their backs.”

Back Breaker contestants say strategy is simple.

“The trick’s to make the BC look light, but still pack it chock-full of lead,” competitor Virgil Cracken said. “Then you tell the DM you just had surgery, and could they please lift your gear out of the water for you.

“You should see their eyes bug out when they start the lift,” Cracken said. “I tore up three backs and two elbows in the last tourney. I use my old Dacor 900 first stage just to add another eight pounds to my gear.”

Per Throwdown rules, divemasters are not told the competition is taking place until the end of the final day. Competitors will dive one day at each resort to allow equal access to all divemasters.

Injured dive staff will be examined by physicians and given x-rays and M.R.I.s to determine extent of injuries so points can be awarded accordingly.

“You score if one of your weight pockets slips out and crushes a divemaster’s toes, too,” Luxfer said. “Eighteen to 20 pounds per pocket’s a good target. Any heavier, it’s tough to disguise the bulk.”

Contestants will be disqualified if they drop below 100 feet/30 meters of depth.

“We can’t have a repeat of last year’s cock-up in Palau,” Luxfer said. “A guy with 32 pounds had a BCD inflator valve failure. He was just, WOOSH! Straight down the wall before anyone could say ‘boo.’”

Blacktip Island dive staff, alerted to the clandestine tournament, were unconcerned.

“Honestly, these bozos’ll be hard to tell from our regular guests,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel said. “I mean, everybody wears 16, 18 pounds these days. Some dude last week had 22. And he was skinny, with no wetsuit.”

An award ceremony for contestants and divemasters is slated for Friday evening. Winners receive a dive flag tattoo. Injured dive staff receive free drinks, Percocet prescriptions and titanium spinal implants.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Divemasters Develop Hoseless Regulator


The prototype of the “L’Air de la Mer” hoseless regulator, showing its patented triple bamboo oxygen separator units. (photo courtesy Marina DeLow)


In what is believed to be a scuba industry first, three Blacktip Island divemasters announced Thursday they have developed a working prototype of a hoseless regulator.

The device works by separating seawater’s oxygen atoms from the larger hydrogen atoms and salt molecules to create a constant supply of breathable air, the regulator’s creators said, and allowing its users to dive without the need of a scuba cylinder.

“A hoseless reg’s been an ongoing joke for years,” said divemaster Marina DeLow, one of the creators. “Then one night after the Ballyhoo closed, the physics of how to make it work just popped.

“We spent the next couple weeks working out the mechanics and building a working model,” DeLow said. “We used old second-stage regs, bamboo tubing and refrigerator water filters, mostly. It’s pretty technical.”

The team has tentatively dubbed the device the “L’Air de la Mer.”

“The Cousteau suits are all up in our business over the name,” co-creator Finn Kiick said. “But that’ll sort itself out. If not, well, you can’t buy advertising like that.”

Though the current prototype is limited in scope, its designers say they plan to produce freshwater versions, Nitrox versions, and a version suitable for technical diving.

“It’s rough looking, but it works,” said Gage Hoase, the team’s third member. “For now the L’AM’ll only convert water into pure O2, so we can’t go below 20 feet. But we got plans to rig one with an oxystat that’ll let you dial in whatever O2 percentage you need.

“On deeper tech dives you’ll be able to crank the O2 down as you descend, then turn it back up as you decompress,” Hoase said. “No more being weighed down with doubles and side mounts and pony bottles.”

The device is not without its skeptics.

“A bunch of drunk scuba bums cooked up The Holy Grail of scuba after a night at the bar, then got rat-faced again while they built the gizmo?” said local scuba enthusiast Barry Bottoms. “That’s not a breakthrough. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

“They say they have a specialty course in the works, too,” Bottoms said. “What’re they gonna call it, ‘Dumb-Ass Diver?’ ‘Dead Diver?’”

Local entrepreneurs, though, are eager to back the project.

“Assuming the L’AM tests to specs, we’re gonna handle the manufacturing and marketing,” said Piers ‘Doc’ Plank, owner of the island-based organic scuba outfitter Bamboo You. “Making this out of locally-sourced, renewable bamboo’ll be boon for the economy, too.

“This’ll be a top of the line reg, and eco-friendly, what with the bamboo O2 filters. This thing could sell better than our Nitrox snorkels.”

1 Comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island University To Offer Ph.D.s In Divemastering


Divemasters working on Blacktip Island’s dive boats will soon be able to earn their Doctorate of Scuba Diving at Tiperon University’s Blacktip campus.


Tiperon University-Blacktip officials announced Thursday the school will offer advanced degrees in divemastering when the winter semester begins next month.

Dubbed the ‘Ph. Dude’ by local dive professionals, the program will place less emphasis on pedagogy and more on scuba research, its creators said.

“Every divemaster has been trained to teach,” TU-B professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Our studies will focus on the more cerebral aspects of divemastering that are too often overlooked. We’ll question why we dive and why that matters, with a goal of addressing the existential angst in the heart of every scuba diver.

“This being a scuba-based degree, doctoral dissertations will be written on underwater slates,” Mojarra said. “Oral exams and thesis defenses will be done underwater via an expanded series of hand signals we developed to convey the requisite nuances of thought.”

Island dive managers have embraced the program.

“Diving’s seeing that radical credential creep like everywhere else,” said Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick. “Used to, you could blast through a DM course and jump on a boat. Now there’s wannabes with diplomas, even bachelor’s degrees.

“You don’t need the doctorate to do the job,” Kiick said. “But you totally need it to land the job.”

Industry analysts, however, aren’t as upbeat.

“It’s a status thing,” said Lou Luxfer president of the Dive Industry Coral Keepers. “Ops managers like to beat their chests about how highly trained their staffs are. They overlook whether customers are getting better supervision because of these advanced degrees.”

Local dive professionals echoed Luxfer’s concerns.

“It’s an empty piece of paper that doesn’t ensure diver safety,” said Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm. “The university’s encouraging silly credentialism, and making a fortune in the process.

“The research and the dissertation require years of work,” Helm said. “With the uni collecting tuition and fees the whole time. There’s no way to pay off that sort of debt on a divemaster’s wages.”

TU-B’s Mojarra brushed those criticisms aside.

“Most of our candidates aim to work in academia,” Mojarra said. “Expensive? Sure. But what better way to break free of the dive bum lifestyle that traps so many people for decades? You divemaster for more than five years, people start looking at you funny. As well they should.”

NAUI, SSI and IANTD have approved the program for their dive leaders. PADI does not yet recognize the program’s accreditation, though the agency is working on a PADI-specific divemastering doctorate of its own.

1 Comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving